Friday, March 30, 2012

BLOOD MONEY: A Gastronomical Fart

By Sadho Ram

Starring: Kunal Khemu, Amrita Puri, Manish Choudhary, Shekher Shukla and Mia Uyeda
Direction: Vishal Mahadkar | Story: Upendra Sidhye
Music: Jeet Ganguly, Pranay, Sangeet & Sidharath Haldipur

I just recently started reviewing movies. And after reviewing some of the finest movies that I've seen in less than a month (Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani, Machine Gun Preacher,The Visitor), I let go of Agent Vinod, because it was established from its very first trailer that Agent Vinod will become what Players could not - the father of duds for the year 2012. But then Blue told me that if I am going to review movies then I'll have to review all kinds of movies that come out, irrespective of the fact that they are good or bad. Which is right. She is right. So I decided I'll go ahead with my Blue's advice and try to review at least one movie that comes out every week.
Image Courtesy Google 
So came BLOOD MONEY, and also my chance to review it. I decided to watch it first day, first show. You know, like a crazy movie buff! So I did not sleep at night so that I can go in for an early morning show. Left house an hour early and walked for about half an hour because there was a huge traffic jam between Santacruz east and Milan Subway (that's where the Inox is), so I figured if I walk I'll not only save some money but also reach in time.

And anyways, a walk in the morning is always good for health, so I've heard.

I reached Inox before the time of the first show (10 AM), so had to wait outside for about 15 minutes, before the cinema security finally let me in. Rather then taking the elevator,  I climbed 3 stories of stairs to go up to the ticket counter to buy myself a ticket. Before printing the ticket, the girl at the counter, skeptically, asks me -

'Sir, you're the first and the only one to buy a ticket for this movie. Are you okay with that?'

I ask her what do you mean by "Are you okay with that?"

She says - 'No, it's just that nobody else has bought, so we don't know if we'll run the movie.'

'Just give me a ticket and I'll see later what happens.'

And thus I became the first person to buy the first ticket of BLOOD MONEY on the first show of the first day. Voila.

But guess what?

Just not worth it.

The half an hour of walk. The 15 minute of wait outside the theatre in the scorching sun (the temperature in Bombay is raising by the day). The 3 stories of stair climbing. And though very precious but still the least of all, my 100 rupees, which in other circumstances provides for my two meals a day.

If you're still here and reading this, then bear with me some more, because trust me, my suffering is a lot greater for being able to sit through the entire bullcrap and still come out alive than what you might be going through by reading me vomit the diarrhea that I've acquired after being exposed to the shame called BLOOD MONEY.

Here's a little bit of the plot (or should I say absence of a plot). BLOOD MONEY tells the story(?) of a simple but ambitous guy named Kunal Kadam, played by Kunal Khemu, who after winning some MBA scholarship in Bombay (India) is offered a job at a big diamond making firm in Capetown (South Africa). He is newly married to Arzoo, played by Amrita Puri, who last appeared in Aisha. Together they move into a huge house and immediately break into song & dance. After the song & dance, we see Kunal getting carried away in pursuit of his ambitions, while Arzoo, being left alone in the huge house, getting lost into oblivion. The story(?) takes a turn when Kunal discovers the real truth hiden behind the glitter of diamonds at his company, and gets entangled in the vicsious web of a mutiltude of crimes.

The question is, can he come out of it clean and stop himself from losing the only real thing that he ever earned, his love, his wife - Arzoo?

The answer is, go figure! If you have nothing else, and I mean seriously nothing else to do and about 200 bucks to throw away, then please, do not let me or my verbal diarrhea influence you and stop you from giving yourself a bullcrap treat called BLOOD MONEY.

To be precisely honest, BLOOD MONEY is the kind of Bollywoodised version of a fairy tale that falls into the category of cinema where the very lack of any purpose whatsoever of telling a story is actually to just escape it. Rather than sticking to the reality and telling it as it is,  rather than hitting the audiance with something concrete, rather than offering substance of any kind, movies such as BLOOD MONEY are just a mere egotistical fart of an ignorant director who believes that gloss & glitter are enough to fool an audience, who is so used to being taken for granted that nobody seems to care that there are limits to everything. There a limit to us for being taken for granted that we will gladly feast on the gastronomical nonsense directors such as Vishal Mahadkar throws at us once every week.

With bad music, worse background score, more badly written characters, awkward acting, pretentious dialogues and the total absence of a story, BLOOD MONEY is just gloss & glitter, which fizzles from the word go.

Therefore, I refuse to write anything more in or against this utter gibberish.

#Edited by: Rabia Mehta

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher: Fighting a Demon Within

By Sadho Ram

“If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, then they’ve won. We must not let them take our hearts.”

We are all fighting a war here. It doesn’t matter of what kind or with whom, but a war nevertheless. While everybody is busy fighting their share of war, there is however a man in this very world of ours who is fighting a war which was never his own and ironically, even after fighting it for over a decade now, it still isn’t his, but he still fights.

There is no better way to put the kind of war he is fighting except how he himself did – another man’s war.
Official poster of the film
In 2011 came a movie called Machine Gun Preacher, an action biopic about Sam Childers played by Gerard Butler, a preacher-defender of African orphans. The film tells the story of Sam Childers, a former gang biker, and his staggeringly selfless efforts to save the children of South Sudan in collaboration with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against the massacres of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The film is based on Childers’ memoir Another Man’s War, which it totally appears to be so, only if looked without dwelling deep into it. But there’s more to it than what connects us to it. There’s another story, almost hidden, which runs parallel to the one being told; the one about Kony’s army (RLA) killing and abducting children and forcing them to become part of it. There’s a war of a different kind, a deeply intimate one, which Childers is constantly fighting alongside the war which is not his. A war where although there are no bullets are being fired, where no one’s blood is being shed, where everything appears to be normal to the ignorant eyes, but where a tsunami is on the verge of destroying the very last bone of spirit.

Throughout the movie we see Childers, played exceptionally well by Gerard Butler, fighting with his own demons, conquering them one by one, but there still lives one demon which he is not only failing to fight with but which is also growing stronger and deeper inside him, making him vulnerable to his own faith and slowly turning him into the very thing, the very idea he is fighting.

On the surface Machine Gun Preacher is full of violence where blood is being shed and lives are being lost, where the future of Africa is lost to the barrel of guns and where its present lies scattered around, blasted away in bits and pieces. It’s a violence we are all sort of accustomed to, but Machine Gun Preacher’s real violence lies within its main protagonist Sam Childers, who slowly finds himself stranded with no faith in doing what he is doing, he fights the demon within which threatens to thwart the very good he has done. It was in that moment when the white preacher (as he is fondly addressed by the people of Africa) is paid a visit by the child who had earlier saved him from being blown up. The silence before the kid speaks in that scene allows us to connect with both of them, making us painfully aware of Childers’ state of mind and enabling us to comprehend the words that are to be preached by the child.

Machine Gun Preacher is a film made with complete passion and heart, written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, it’s a well told story with balance of both, love and war. Being a true account of a real life hero working selflessly, fighting someone else’s war, Machine Gun Preacher must be applauded for its honest effort in trying to address an issue, the tales of which are only disturbing. The entire cast has done a fabulous job; each of the character has its own voice, which reaches to us in an attempt to pull us in.

Watch it for the reasons that there are still heroes out there, outside the fictional realm of comic books and superhero movies, who are trying a make a difference in this indifferent world, who are out there saving the lives of innocents fighting who-knows whose war; heroes who haven’t given up on hope for a brighter dawn and better tomorrow.

And to those who might not see any point in the war that Sam Childers and hundreds like him are fighting, I will leave it on  Childers himself to answer…

For me to sit here and give all kinds of excuses to make it right. I can’t do it. But what I wanna ask everyone out there, everyone that has a child, everyone that has a brother or a sister, if your child or your family member was abducted today, if a madman came in, a terrorist came in, abducted your family member, or your child, and if I said to you, “I can bring your child home, does it matter how I bring him home?”
The original Sam Childers
Watch it for what it has to offer – reality.

#Edited by Rabia Mehta

Monday, March 19, 2012

When Art becomes Life: The Visitor

By Sadho Ram

Our life is a most vibrant, continually progressing, richly overwhelming canvas in motion; a never-ending work of finest art, which keeps on getting larger and larger until its final movement, where everything stops mattering except the whole sum of life which it leaves behind in the form of that vibrant canvas which it was processing, for others to reflect on it. We may think that we are the one filling in the blank spaces of our life, but the reality is very different. It’s actually our life that is filling us, from inside and out.

Art is one such form of life, where life becomes art and art becomes life. But when art becomes life, you know how good that art is, you realise its absolute beauty and the power it holds in it. For life becoming art is one thing, but imagine the beauty, and no, not just the beauty but the quality of that grace and intellect, coupled with which, that very form of art becoming life. A transformation which can never be forced or faked, for the very reason that life can’t.

The Visitor is one such form of art which becomes life. Immaculate. Unbound. A very fine and vibrant canvas in motion with no shock value or element of surprise in it, but one which warmly opens up to you and sucks you in so comfortably that before you realise you are completely lost in its grace and beauty.

Just for the record, those who are still guessing what it is that I’m talking about, The Visitor is a 2008 American drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy.
The Visitor is a story of Walter Vale played  by Richard Jenkins, a widowed, Connecticut college professor of economics, living a solitary life, who fills his days by sometimes taking piano lessons, in memory of his wife, a classical concert pianist, while sporadically writing his new book in an effort to fill his empty, boring life. He is suddenly asked to present a paper at an academic conference at New York University, about which he is not keen at all and so refuses to accept the request, until he is forced to by his department head Charles, played by Michael Cumpsty.

And just like that Walter’s life changes at a blink of an eye. He becomes part of two unmarried couple, Tarek played by Haaz Sleiman, a Palestinian-Syrian djembe player and Zainab played by Danao Jekesai Gurira, a Senegalese designer of ethnic jewellery, who he later discovers are illegal immigrants. Walter’s rather simple but boring life, suddenly changes track and becomes what he had never thought it would become. He is forced to deal with issues of identity, immigration and cross-cultural communication in post-9/11 New York City.

The crux of the story lies in the metaphor where we see him becoming the lone hope for the couple, (while being almost hopeless himself) and the only source of comfort for a mother, Mouna played by Hiam Abbass, (while never being at ease with his own self).

Thomas McCarthy has written a very real and moving tale which he directs with such precision and brilliance that it leaves the viewer wanting for more yet satisfied with nothing to complain about. The last time he did the same was with his equally moving tale of a man seeking solitude in an abandoned train station, called The Station Agent.

The Visitor is so beautiful in its presentation that you just want it to go on, forever. The whole movie is a complete treat in itself. But there are scenes so powerful and original that they just pull the viewer inside, making them part of it, allowing them to breathe in the harmony of the beats being struck. While the entire cast of The Visitor is just impeccable, it is really the Walter Vale’s character which stays with you even after everything is over. Richard Jenkins does a brilliant job as Walter; he makes his character come alive in the screen, bringing in the kind of sincerity not often found.

The Visitor is that continually progressing canvas in motion, which keeps on getting larger and larger until its final movement, where everything stops mattering except that one thing where it leaves behind the canvas, now complete, for us to reflect on it.

Grab its DVD and watch it or wait till you catch it on TV like I did. For such films are eternal, no matter how old they get, they never loses their quality. The kind of feeling films like The Visitor invokes in us is worth the time it takes from us. Films as such may leave you wanting for more but will never leave you feeling empty or unsatisfied. Never.

Friday, March 9, 2012

KAHAANI: A Mother of a Story

By Sadho Ram

Starring: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Saswata Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Direction: Sujoy Ghosh | Story: Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala
Dialogues: Sujoy Ghosh, Ritesh Shah and Sutapa Sikdar | Screenplay: Sujoy Ghosh
Additional Screenplay: Suresh Nair & Nikhil Vyas | Music: Vishal-Shekhar

It is said that a very long time ago, somewhere in the magical realm of Hindu mythology, when the demon called Mahishasura had unleashed terror on the three worlds, creating havoc and chaos all around; made so powerful by the blessings of Brahma that no god could ever defeat him. It was then that a goddess was born, summoned by all the gods, to liberate the world from the clutches of Mahishasura, she was the culmination of the energies of all gods. According to the mythological tale, she is the original illusion caster and the material manifestation of the Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Godhead, (the universal Spirit that is the source and support of the phenomenal universe). 
KAHAANI is the story of one such world (in here Kolkata), where terror of the demon has been unleashed, creating havoc and chaos all around; and when everything else fails to stop the demon, a goddess, somewhere from the far off world, arrives in the form of an ordinary, 7 month pregnant woman.

We are told that she is a no one, just an ordinary, 7 month pregnant woman looking for her missing husband. That she seeks nothing else, but the truth which seems to have somehow vanished her husband into the thin air of Kolkata, made almost mystical by the superb direction of Sujoy Ghosh. But the reality of KAHAANI is nothing what has been established from the moment it unfolds.

Vidya Balan is the Durga of this KAHAANI. Her character has been written so exceptionally well that it is almost synonymous to what the Durga is. Filled with fierce compassion and creative feminine force, Vidya seems to exist in a state of total independence from the universe and anything or anybody else, in other words, she is self-sufficient,  just like Durga. You take her out of KAHAANI, and you are left with nothing else but a dead canvas incapable of evoking any emotion whatsoever. You put her back in KAHAANI, and the same dead canvas comes roaring back to life, ready to invoke the emotions you least expected it to. Vidya’s character, in her search for her missing husband (as we are told), shows fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humour, even during the situation of epic proportion. She becomes a child when she is with Subash at the guest house she is staying in, who is crazily in love with his radio, which he keeps with him all the time, and the nervous and diffident Partho at the chaiwala. She becomes what the situation demands her to be, and at times she herself becomes the situation where she can be what she wants to be.

The story of KAHAANI, though not once losing track, ticks only because of the way Vidya’s character unfolds itself throughout the KAHAANI. Has the character of Vidya Bagchi (played unlike anything else seen in a long-long time in Hindi cinema by Vidya Balan) been any less in terms of emotional proportion and substance, KAHAANI would have been just another wham-bam story that we witness in bundles every other Friday.

While Vidya Balan deserves all the admiration that is being showered on her for her role in KAHAANI, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, in his portrayal of young cop Satyaki fondly addressed as Rana, is a natural. A new face for Hindi cinema, Parambrata Chattopadhyay is a big name in Bengali film fraternity. He lives to the character name of his role as Satyaki, the chariot of Arjuna, guiding, following, and even protecting Vidya from the risks and threats of people from both sides; the good and the bad, in her quest, as we are told, to find her missing husband.

Supported competently by Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his portrayal as the foulmouthed IB agent A Khan; Saswata Chatterjee as the dishevelled and grouchy contactor killer who greets his targets before shooting them down, along with a bunch of other superbly crafted extras, KAHAANI is almost infallible.

Sujoy Ghosh, who previously gave us unmentionable duds like Home delivery and Aladdin, seems to have woken up from his slumber, completely transformed into a master story teller, who keeps you thinking, even challenging you it at times, and not letting your attention go haywire with his smartly written story and almost tight direction. He seems to have understood that the basic art of story-telling lies in making your audience part of it and not just mere spectators. And rightly so, you find yourself moving along with the KAHAANI as it unfolds the mystery that lies beneath its camouflage. KAHAANI doesn’t let you rest from the moment you step inside its world, surprising you, even shocking at times, hitting you with twists and turns, one rarely gets to see in Hindi cinema these days.

I would not want to, but if I have to sum up what KAHAANI is, then it’s a mirage, an illusion, a wholly different story in garb of a camouflage that at the end will leave you, shocked at first, and later smiling in admiration at the talent that the whole team of KAHAANI has brought to it.

Watch it for what it is – KAHAANI, an illusion. Because as Durga, upon emerging from the pool of the light of all gods, had said that it was not they who created her but her lila that she emerged from their combined energy, KAHAANI too it seems as if has not been created by the team of Sujoy Ghosh but by its own lila that it emerged from their combined talent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Rebel called Paan Singh Tomar

By Sadho Ram

What would you call a man, who after joining the army and accidently becoming the seven-time national winner in steeplechase, retires as a Subedar, only to pick up the gun again, this time to fight a personal battle, and thus becomes a dreaded man?

I’m guessing – a rebel. Because that’s what he calls himself.

Who is he?

Well, you’ll know.

But no matter whomsoever this rebel is, there has never been a rebel whose story didn’t have a tale in it. So, just like every rebel has a story to tell, of himself and how or what made him a rebel,  this rebel too has a “story with a tale” in it of himself and how he became what he finally became.

And just for the record, this rebel goes by the name Paan Sigh Tomar, who occasionally delights in the mouth-watering taste of hot gulab-jaamun and ice-cream, and doesn’t like to be addressed as a daket (dacoit). Because as per him, “daket milte hain parliament me.” (Dacoits are found in parliament).

So rightly in the beginning of this “story with a tale” when the interviewer, who after boasting in the morning to a paanwala that tomorrow he is going to become famous, and now at night panting (after climbing long stairs) and nervous in front of our rebel, asks, “aap daaku kaise bane?”, Paan Singh Tomar, with his piercing eyes and equally piercing voice replies, “bihad me baagi hote hain, daket milte hain parliament me.” And thus sets the premise of this gritty (yet jovial in parts) “story with a tale” that our rebel is going to narrate in flashback, taking us with him wherever he goes, making us feel - and at times even reflect on - what he feels.

Brilliantly directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and magnificently acted out by Irrfan Khan, as soon as Paan Singh Tomar the film begins, it catches your attention and pulls you into the biopic drama of a hero long forgotten by the country, and doesn’t let you go even after it ends. It lasts within you, only to make you feel the grit that Paan Singh Tomar the man had in him.

Such movies are rarely made, just like rebels as such as Paan Singh Tomar are. Tigmanshu, after successfully practicing the genre and the nuances required for such kind of story-telling, has given us his best effort as a director and writer. Paan Singh Tomar shows the effort he has put in and the skills he has used. If not until now, then Paan Singh Tomar is what will give him the due recognition and respect that he rightly deserves. It is something he has worked very hard for and unlike many others in the industry; he is someone who has earned it.

The less is said about Irrfan Khan the better it will be. Because words do not do justice to what that man has become. Since the time I’ve seen him acting, that man has only grown and outperformed himself in almost every film that he has done. We all know the kind of actors that throng the industry now. Rotting on weekly basis, the graph of acting talent in our Bollywood has only gone down. But there are few, still around, still growing, and going only strong, who are keeping the ship from sinking completely. Irrfan Khan is one of them, a rebel of sorts who refuses to stop evolving. In Paan Singh Tomar, he rises to a level that was not expected, but not surprising either. It’s hard to tell whether Paan Singh Tomar became him or he became Paan Singh Tomar.

A final word on the film: It’s a true delight in such genre, possibly expected from the likes of Dhulia and a few others. The story is well-written, well-woven, well-told, with attention to detail and specific highlights, thus making it worth the money and time, both.

Watch it for the sheer talent that Dhulia and Khan bring to it. Watch it for the rare masterstrokes Indian Cinema has to offer. Watch it for the 7 time national winner, who died a rebel. Watch it for all those unsung national athletes who lived a life of misery after sports and died penniless.

But if you still can’t (won’t) watch it for any of those, than watch it at least for the sake of it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning to write and... share

By Sadho Ram

I feel a sense of satisfaction when a loser somehow wins something. I don’t know why it is so, and since when it has been so, but it just makes perfect sense that in the world full of bullies everywhere, somehow, somewhere a loser gets a chance at life, at going home not with lost pride but with a smile, at luck, at the bully, at the world in getting at least one thing out of all those things that he had wanted all his life, but was denied at the hands of the very world full of bullies.

I don’t know what I’m – a bully or a loser. Not because I’m confused (which I’m in way), but because at different points in my life I’ve been both. But somehow I identify myself with the loser in me more. Maybe I’ve got a low self-esteem, or maybe I’m just tired pretending to be something I’m not.

There is no particular purpose for writing this little post. It’s just that I haven’t been writing off lately, not at all. But in past few days I’ve been feeling this sense of satisfaction when a loser somehow wins something, although I haven’t won anything per se. I am just feeling, so here I’m… penning… what I’ve been feeling.

And here’s something my girlfriend sent me over email today ;) … oh, how I miss her.